Financial Advice

>> Saturday, November 07, 2009

A co-worker at a former job once asked me if I thought her and her fiance should share a bank account when they get married. It was only about my second year of marriage and I said of course you should have a joint account. She didn't seem happy about that but kept her stance that she will always have a separate account. Many years later and after spending time with numerous couples I have realized that my advice was not the best one.

During three years of marriage, my husband and I bounced checks because we did not communicate, and what we bought was belittled, as though "your wasting our money", and that was on both of our parts. We tried being discipline but we would never be disciplined at the same time. To our shame, once the lights were turned off because there was not designated person to pay the bills. So when I came home candles were on and I thought I walked into a romantic scene in a novel, until his voice was slow deep and steady. "Did you remember to pay the light bill?" I felt a rock drop in my stomach. You mean the candles were on because we had no electricity? I blurted, "I thought you were paying the electricity bill after last weeks conversation". That was a bad and silent night for us and I wish I could say we changed right away but it went on for some time.

Today, we have a system that works for us. That should have been the answer to my co-worker. What system works for the both of you? There are couples who do great with joint accounts. For me and my husband, we have separate savings accounts and a lead person who pays the bills. Both partners should take on this role for a stated period of time. The couple can also just have one person take care of the finances but this takes great humility and patience on the part of the other spouse without criticism; suggestions are always great, then leave it at that. As usual communication on both parts is important. Whether on a spreadsheet or by summary of a few numbers, whatever works for keeping the lights on. Lastly, I have learned from other couples to put the bulk of your pay in the joint account to pay the bills. Put a little to the side in your own savings or other account to build up to buying "what you want".